More than just a ride from work

5:04 pm.

I was done with work for the day and it was time for something I both dreaded and looked forward to: the mission to take a taxi. I dread it because I get car sick sitting in the back and I look forward to it because it gives me a much-needed break from driving in Cairo.

I realize that most people would not refer to the process of taking a taxi as a “mission”, but there’s something I have to explain about myself.

I’ve lived a very sheltered life -not because I wanted to, but because I have the most overprotective parents on the planet. So that meant no sleepovers, no outings in cafes or cinemas until I was 18 years old and definitely no taxis. My mother would always tell me stories about how all taxi drivers kidnapped and raped girls like me -yes, my family is quite jolly.

However, this does not deny the fact that I spent my teenage years taking taxis and going out in cafes and cinemas behind my parents’ backs. Let’s hope they never find this blog.

Nevertheless, I am still considered a person with minimal taxi experience. Plus, whenever I do take a taxi, my mother’s voice is always in the back of my head, warning me to be prepared for an attack any minute.

So today’s taxi ride was a mission.

I finally found a taxi, and the drive -although short- was interesting enough for me to decide to write about. I have no idea what the driver’s name was, so I’m just going to call him Moataz, just because he seemed like a Moataz.

Moataz is old -probably in his sixties. He’s tanned and wears thick glasses and a beautiful smile.

Moataz asked about what I did for a living and decided to analyze me. He said that he thought I wasย an independent character because of the fact that I’m young and already have a job. His argument was that I don’t look like I need to work, and yet I do. The fact that my job is far away from where I live seemed to convince him that his analyzation was correct.

Moataz has a son that used to teach high school for a lousy 300 EGP a month. Everyone advised him to give private lessons as a method of making some extra money and he did, but he didn’t like it.

“Whenever a student’s mother would bring him tea or juice, she would tell him that her son absolutely had to get a full market,” he said.

I found his faulty English endearing. The fact that he was trying was impressive.

His son -let’s call him Mohamed- then decided to switch careers and work in tourism. There was no major career switch there because he can speak Arabic, English and German. Mohamed is apparently also a buff guy who frequents the gym and does not smoke -I’m not sure why that information was relevant but found that it helped me visualize him better.

So, one day, a german woman approached Mohamed and it turned out that she owned an entire floor in one of Dubai’s skyscrapers that she used as a restaurant and cafe. She offered Mohamed a job as a waiter and he jumped at the opportunity. She asked for a copy of his passport and he gave it to her.

Weeks passed, and Mohamed did not hear a peep out of the german woman. Poor guy thought she might have scammed him or stolen his identity.

“I told him to have some faith in people,” Moataz told me.

Turns out having faith was a good idea, because the next day Mohamed got an envelope in the mail. Enclosed was the copy of his passport, a visa to Dubai and a plane ticket.

He travelled and started working at the cafe. He recently got promoted to supervisor.

Moataz’s eyes were lit with pride as he told me the story.

Mohamed had told Moataz to sell the taxi and buy a regular car so that he can finally retire and relax, but Moataz refused.

“I want to keep making my own living. I love what I do and I wouldn’t change it for anything,” he said, a peaceful, content smile playing on his lips.

We’d already reached my destination, but the conversation was so interesting that I didn’t want to go. I let him drive for another minute until it was time for me to go before I got lost in the maze of unknown streets.

People like Moataz give me hope in this country, and people like Mohamed show me that faith and hard work really do pay off.

Moataz gave me more than just a taxi ride today; he gave me some much needed faith. I hope I did the same for you.